Wall of Wind as a Unique Educational Tool

WOW_001The Wall of Wind (WOW), recently designated by NSF as one of the nation’s major “Experimental Facilities (EFs)” under the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) Program, is allowing CEE students to acquire unique education in wind engineering. Dr. Arindam Chowdhury, Associate Professor of CEE and Director of WOW, will integrate evidence-based instructional practices and NHERI WOW EF activities into his newly developed “Hurricane Engineering for Global Sustainability” course for undergraduates. The course serves as a global learning course, addressing FIU’s global learning outcomes — Global Awareness, Global Perspective, and Global Engagement, and exploring the role of engineers in achieving sustainable coastal communities around the globe. The interactive course provides a diverse group of students with an opportunity to gain advance knowledge to protect homes, businesses and infrastructure lifelines, and to enable innovations to help prevent natural hazards from becoming societal disasters.

The course involves Active Learning strategies to address hurricane related problems and to develop a whole new philosophy of understanding, planning, and preparedness to reduce hurricane related losses. Chowdhury has been incorporating WOW test-based results and videos to inform students on wind induced damage and mechanisms of wind-driven-rain intrusion. The students work on multidisciplinary projects aimed at understanding and mitigating the hazards associated with hurricanes in terms of severe winds, wind-driven rain, windborne debris, flooding, storm surge, and waves. Much of the active learning occurs as the students work in teams to (1) delve into practical problems and their solutions facilitated by advanced knowledge (such as gained from the Wall of Wind) and (2) experience real world scenarios through unique tours to facilities like the National Hurricane Center. The teams make oral presentations and submit active learning projects to demonstrate their awareness, multi-perspective analyses skills, and willingness to develop engineering solutions that can reduce adverse impacts of hurricanes at local, global, and international levels. Some of the active learning projects are described below:

Case-Based Learning engages students in discussion of scenarios that typically are real-world examples. This method is learner-centered with intense interaction between participants as they build their knowledge and work together as a group to examine the case. [E.g. Impact of Hurricane Katrina or Typhoon Haiyan]

Team Based Learning (TBL) includes out-of-class preparation for students who are tested both individually and as teams applying course concepts to increasingly complex problems, with immediate feedback from the rest of the class and the instructor. [E.g. Global Advancement in Cyclone Prediction and Warning]WOW_002

Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) urges students to ask questions and investigate possible answers, using a variety of skills to collect reliable and accurate data, analyze secondary sources, draw conclusions, reason and debate. At the end of in-class presentations the students are asked to debate on topics that have no single right answers. [E.g. Global Warming Link to Hurricane Activities; Adapting to vs. Preventing Climate Change]

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) begins when students are confronted with an open-ended, ill-structured, authentic (real-world) problem and work in teams to identify learning needs to develop a viable solution. [E.g. Creative Solution to Lessen Hurricane Damage to Power Infrastructure (based on WOW data)]

Building upon “Wall of Wind Mitigation Challenge” competitions, Chowdhury will create a new “EF Wind Challenge” experimental module to augment his course and challenge students with open-ended real-world wind hazard problems. Inquiry-based active learning will enable students to shift away from the lecture/note-taking mode and work in teams using team-based learning methods to brainstorm viable solutions. This will promote critical thinking skills and allow students to learn wind engineering by doing. This active learning platform will (1) foster development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce with cutting edge wind hazard mitigation knowledge, and (2) be a tool for the STEM Institute to recruit effective Learning Assistants (LAs) into FIU’s pre-service teacher preparation program where they earn disciplinary degrees in parallel with K-12 teacher certification.

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